Five Smart Security Tips for Your iOS Device

iPhones, iPods, and iPads have a reputation for being pretty secure. What makes them so impervious to viruses, spyware, and the like? Part of the credit goes to Apple, which vets each and every iOS app that’s submitted to the App Store and blocks any that violate its stringent security policies. Thus there’s no chance you’ll accidentally install Angry Birds and end up exposing your private data to hackers.

Even so, there’s no such thing as a 100 percent safe mobile device. Your iOS tablet or smartphone may be pretty secure on the app front, but there are other threats you should be aware of. Here’s how to thwart the five of the most pressing security threats.

1. Protect kids from inappropriate Internet content

It’s easy enough to childproof your PC, to bar access to the Internet’s unsavory destinations. But Apple offers no such safeguards for iOS — no parental controls, Web filtering, or search guards.

Thankfully, you can keep the kids away from online red light districts by installing a secure mobile browser, one that offers a familiar, Safari-like Web interface atop a host of child-oriented protections.

For example, suppose your 9-year-old tries searching for a toy called Playbot, but accidentally types Playboy. The browser will block access to both the site and any appearances it might make in search results. It can also give you browsing history and reports, just in case you want to keep tabs on Junior’s Web activities.

2. Set a tougher password

Too many users don’t bother to password-protect their phones and tablets, perhaps thinking it’s not worth the hassle. That’s a mistake. It’s the difference between giving a thief full and unrestricted access to every kernel of personal information stored on your device and erecting a nearly impenetrable wall.

By default, iOS can block unauthorized access by way of a four-digit numeric passcode. However, by venturing into Settings, General, Passcode Lock and switching Simple Passcode to Off, you can use whatever alphanumeric password you want.

It's worth taking the time to set up a secure password.

3. Be careful when connecting to unknown networks

Wi-Fi networks are everywhere these days. But are they always safe? Not necessarily. Suppose you’re in a coffee shop, and your iPhone detects two available Wi-Fi networks: “Jumpin’ Java” and “Free Public Wi-Fi Come On In.” The latter sounds harmless enough, but it could be a fake network set up by mischievous hackers. If you connect, they might be able to wirelessly jailbreak (i.e. hack open) your phone, take control of it, and access your data.

To avoid these kinds of attacks, bypass networks with plain-vanilla names. Instead, look for one that seems appropriate to the business or venue that’s hosting it. Better yet, look for the password-protected network that appears to be owned by the establishment you’re visiting. When in doubt, ask an employee what their network is called. If you’re a customer, they should be happy to tell you the network name and password so you can start surfing.

4. Turn off location services

A surprising number of iPhone apps want to know your location. That’s okay for some things, like Google Maps, Weather, and the Photos app (which can geotag your snapshots, a decidedly cool feature), but do you really want, say, Facebook tracking your whereabouts all day? Or the Dominos Pizza app? Heck, why does Angry Birds need to know your position?

Thankfully, you can disable location tracking for apps that have no business using it. Just run the Settings app, tap Location Services, and then peruse the app list, switching off the feature as needed. (If you really want to stay “off the grid,” you can disable Location Services altogether, rather than just for individual apps.) An extra perk: less location tracking means better battery life.

5. Help a lost iOS device find its way home

It’s terrible to lose your phone or tablet, and not just because it’s expensive to replace. Whoever finds it might end up poking around your contacts, documents, and other data—even if it’s just in an effort to find the owner. Talk about a security breach.

Sure, you can take advantage of remote-lock, remote-wipe, and location-tracking features, but why not make it as easy as possible for an honest person to return your device? To do so, create a lock-screen wallpaper that includes your contact information: name, e-mail address, and/or phone number. (To improve your chances of recovery, mention a reward as well.) A 99-cent app called If Found Lock Screen makes this simple, giving you a choice of fonts, font sizes, background image, and so on.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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